Responding To A Small Claims Complaint

Find out what options you have if you are served with a Small Claims Complaint, including tips for resolving or defending the case.


Overview

If you are served with a Small Claims Affidavit of Complaint, one of your options is to simply pay the money that the “plaintiff” (the person suing you) is seeking. You can also try to negotiate with the plaintiff to resolve the case. You and the plaintiff are free to work out whatever arrangement you can both agree to – which might involve paying money, but could also involve returning property or performing some service. If you are able to settle the case, make sure you write out your agreement, that both parties sign it, and that you keep a copy.

TIP! If you’d like help negotiating with the plaintiff, you may be interested in a FREE service called the Neighborhood Justice Center (NJC). The NJC's no-cost mediation service may be able to help you resolve the dispute. Click to visit Mediating a Small Claims Dispute.

If you and the plaintiff resolve the case, the plaintiff will need to notify the court. In small claims courts other than Las Vegas, the plaintiff can simply write a letter to the court clerk stating that the case has been settled. In the Las Vegas small claims court, the plaintiff must file a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal form, which you can download by visiting the Las Vegas Justice Court Small Claims Forms page. The form is also available, free of charge, at the Self-Help Center, or can link to it by clicking underneath the form’s title below:

NOTICE OF VOLUNTARY DISMISSAL (LAS VEGAS ONLY)  
LV Pdf Fillable   

Click to visit Basics of Court Forms and Filing for information about how to fill out legal forms and file in the justice court. For more information about the specific requirements for a small claims case in the Las Vegas Justice Court, click to visit the Las Vegas Justice Court Small Claims page.

TIP! If the plaintiff hasn’t notified the court that the case has settled before the date of your small claims hearing, you should attend the hearing and let the court know the case has been resolved. Unless you know for certain that your hearing has been taken off calendar, show up!

If you are not able (or do not want) to settle the case, the sections below explain whether you need to respond to the complaint and how you can do that:
In Henderson, North Las Vegas, and Courts Other Than Las Vegas or
In Las Vegas Small Claims Court

To download a flowchart that shows how a small claims case moves through the court – and whether you might need to file a response to the small claims complaint – click on one of the file names below:
Flowchart – Overview of the Small Claims Process  
Flowchart - Overview of Las Vegas Small Claims Process

After you've been served with a complaint


Appear at mediation or your trial

If you are the “defendant” (the person being sued) in a small claims case , you do not need to file anything with the court if you have been served with a Small Claims Affidavit of Complaint. You simply need to attend your small claims court date to defend yourself. The date and time of the mediation or hearing should be stated on the complaint you received. For more information, click to visit Going to Small Claims Court.

FYI! If your small claims case is in the North Las Vegas Justice Court, your first court date will be a mandatory mediation. If you’re unable to settle your case at mediation, you’ll get a second hearing date in front of the justice of the peace.  In Henderson, you will be required to mediate your case on the same date set for your small claims hearing. Click to visit Mediating a Small Claims Dispute for more information. In Las Vegas, mediation is not mandatory, but a mediator will be be available the day of your trial if you decide to mediate.

Even if you do not think you have a defense (a valid reason for not paying) you should attend the mediation or hearing. You should never ignore a summons! If you believe you have a defense, you should do research, prepare your case, organize your evidence, and practice presenting your case. If you are unsure whether you have a legal defense, you may want to consult with an attorney or do your own legal research. Click to visit Lawyers and Legal Help.

If you fail to attend the scheduled small claims mediation or hearing, the judge could enter a money judgment against you for whatever amount the plaintiff is requesting in the complaint. The plaintiff could then try to collect that judgment by, for example, garnishing your wages or taking the money from your bank account. For more information, click to visit Setting Aside a Small Claims Default Judgment and Collecting a Small Claims Judgment or Contesting Collection.

FYI! If you believe the plaintiff owes you money, you can file a “counterclaim” (a complaint for money against the person suing you). You will file your counterclaim in the same case, and it will be heard at the same time as plaintiff’s claim against you. For more information, click to read Suing the Person Who Is Suing you in Small Claims.

Filing a Motion to Dismiss

If you believe the plaintiff’s claim is legally defective, you can also file a Motion to Dismiss and ask the judge to dismiss the case. Simply disagreeing with the plaintiff’s claim will not be enough. In your motion, you will need to tell the judge what the legal problem is with the plaintiff’s case. The following are some examples of legal arguments you can make to try and dismiss the case:

  • The small claims court has no jurisdiction because you do not currently live, work, or do business in Las Vegas.
  • The plaintiff is asking for a remedy that the small claims court cannot grant (for example, the return of a vehicle).
  • The plaintiff filed the case after the statute of limitations had already run.
  • The debt the plaintiff is trying to collect has been discharged in bankruptcy.

Your motion might be set for hearing, and if it is, the court will send notice of the hearing date to you and the plaintiff via regular mail. The judge can also issue a written decision without a hearing. If you get a hearing, you should be prepared to state your arguments. If the judge grants your motion, the plaintiff’s case will be dismissed. If the plaintiff disagrees, the plaintiff can appeal.

You can download a form Motion to Dismiss (for use by Defendant in Small Claims Case) for the Las Vegas Justice Court by clicking to visit the Las Vegas Justice Court Small Claims Forms page and selecting the form. The form is also available, free of charge, at the Self-Help Center, or you can link to it by clicking underneath the form’s title below:

MOTION TO DISMISS (FOR USE BY DEFENDANT IN SMALL CLAIMS) (LAS VEGAS ONLY)  
LV Pdf Fillable   

Click to visit Basics of Court Forms and Filing to learn about how to fill out legal forms and file in the justice court. For more information about the specific requirements for a small claims case in the Las Vegas Justice Court, click to visit the Las Vegas Justice Court Small Claims page.